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Although social distancing is causing organizations to alter plans and traditions, Isanti County Beyond the Yellow Ribbon has announced its 2020 scholarship recipients.

“It was an unusual year for scoring applications, since it had to be done remotely at our homes instead of all together in one room. Once our scores are revealed, we usually have discussions about the similarities or differences in scores,” said committee member Bruce Danielson. “This year, we just submitted them to our ICBYR president and Jim Rostberg tallied them. In the end, we were as excited as ever about our four winners. They are outstanding choices.”

Each year the scholarship committee gathers together to determine who they will award their four $2,500 scholarships to, through an application process and points system. While this year was different due to COVID-19 social distancing requirements, the award process has changed, but not the focus.

“The students that follow the instructions completely and accurately rise to the top. What keeps you there is consistently doing well academically in high school, including PSEO classes, and in college, if you are already enrolled there after graduating high school,” said Dan Jakovich, scholarship committee co-chair. “Students write how they meet the eligibility requirements through their military connection. The bonus reading for me is when the student expresses what that military connection has meant to them. Many of our applicants express the sacrifice and journey their military family has been on. One applicant called them life’s lessons and ones they appreciate learning about. They learned to adapt and look at obstacles in a different light. One applicant was proud of their family member’s military service, veteran advocacy and their family discussion of American patriotism.

“I have learned that many of our applicants have very busy lives because of all the activities they are involved with. These include school sports, band, orchestra, student council, FFA, clubs, mentors, community involvement, hobbies, and a variety of other interests. They learn to volunteer, work as employees on job sites, receive special awards and honors for their academic success, and for some, their high school activities have continued at the college level. The recipients of the Beyond The Yellow Ribbon Scholarship are a talented group, and I think the committee that selects would say all the applicants are talented individuals,” Jakovich added.

Scholarship recipients

It was their goals, their pasts and their dreams that made them rise to the top of the list for the four 2020 Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Scholarship recipients. Their paths and futures may differ, but their family’s desire to serve their country is what’s bonded them together.

This year’s scholarships recipients are Libby Voss, Cassie Galligan, Riley Geyen-Helget and Megan Duff.

Libby Voss

With her goal of acquiring a law degree, as well as her history of dedication to her community and participation in school, Libby Voss of Ogilvie High School, an Anoka-Ramsey Community College PSEO student, really impressed the committee this year, according to Danielson.

“Not only is she super involved in National Honor Society, FFA, Student Council, and going PSEO from Ogilvie High School, but she’s an involved member of 4-H and volunteers at nursing homes, picking up trash along highways, and doing care packages for the homeless,” Danielson said. “Believe it or not, she also has a part-time job and a very high GPA. Investing $2,500 in Libby is a very safe investment. She may be related to Wonder Woman. Oh, and her references were glowing. Both of Libby’s parents have been in the military as well as her grandfather.”

Voss’ family’s dedication to service is what qualified her for the scholarship.

“My dad was enlisted in the Army for four years and mom is active duty in the United States Public Health Service,” Voss said.

It is her parents’ influence that’s led her on the path of law enforcement and encouraged her to go for her dream of pursuing a future in criminal justice.

“I am going to graduate from Ogilvie High School the end of May. I already have a year of generals finished, so I will finish the rest next year, then transfer to a university to earn my bachelor’s degree in criminal justice,” Voss said. “This scholarship will be put towards my college expenses at ARCC in the fall. I am not set on a specific career yet, but something in law enforcement. My mom is a nurse at a prison and I’ve just always been interested in law enforcement. ”

Cassie Galligan

Already embarking on her college venture, Cassie Galligan stood out to the committee with her transcript, a perfect GPA and the support of those she’s connected with throughout her education.

“Cassie Galligan has already begun her secondary education and is very successful (with a) 4.0 GPA at Kansas State University Global Campus, as well as working full time at Bethel University in St. Paul in the Registrar’s Office,” Danielson said. “Her transcripts and letters of recommendation would be every student’s dream. It was obvious Cassie has a terrific future in front of her and ICBYR is excited to be a part of that. Cassie’s father, Mike, was a sergeant major serving in Afghanistan and spent 21 years in the Minnesota National Guard.”

With the scholarship award, Galligan is able to continue her college journey, which she began while still in high school.

“I graduated from Cambridge-Isanti High School in 2015. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in psychology in December 2017. I plan to graduate with a Master of Science in academic advising in December 2020,” Galligan said. “I really enjoyed my undergrad experience. It was a time of personal growth and new opportunities, and I frequently miss those days. I took college classes in high school, which caused my time in college to be cut short, but the self-development that took place and the friendships I made there changed my life.

“After I graduated, I worked for one year before deciding to pursue a master’s degree. I never thought I would go to grad school, but having a little time in the workforce helped confirm what I could really see myself doing for a lifelong career. Earning a master’s degree fully online while I’m also working full-time has had its challenges, but I’m grateful for the opportunity. My unique experience of finishing college earlier than most has only made my appreciation for education increase, and it’s made me extra thankful for the opportunities that college offers to young adults.,” Galligan added.

With her sights set on becoming an academic adviser or career counselor for undergraduate students at a higher education institution, Galligan said the scholarship will assist in accelerating her education time line.

“This scholarship will help me be able to take more classes at once so that I can finish my degree sooner and take the next step towards the career I’m pursuing. I am currently employed in higher ed, but wish to move into an advising role. My master’s degree will help me do that and start serving students sooner,” Galligan said. “I am grateful that such a scholarship exists for families of veterans. I’m thankful that I’m able to honor my dad and my family’s experience by being recognized in this way.”

Riley Geyen-Helget

With a long list of volunteer experience, a near perfect GPA and a strong family focus, Riley Geyen-Helget was a natural choice for the committee, one they’ve made for the family in the past.

“Riley Geyen-Helget was the third member of his family to receive our scholarship and definitely proves that lightning can strike numerous times in the same family. A future graduate of Monticello High School, his GPA is nearly 4.0, a two-sport athlete and a volunteer off the charts. Besides soccer and hockey, he’s been involved in Toys for Tots and a Sandwich Project that sounds awesome,” Danielson said. “His father works at the Cambridge Armory, and therefore he qualifies for the scholarship. We love that this scholarship allows us to follow Riley to Arizona for a degree in biomedical engineering.”

With his family as his inspiration and with their full support, Geyen-Helget set out to apply for the scholarship and was excited to be the third in his family to be chosen, just one year after his brother.

“My stepfather is in the national guard. He works full time at the Cambridge Armory as an operations NCO,” Geyen-Helget said. “I am related to last year’s winner, Bailey Geyen-Helget. He is my brother and is attending ASU as well. He used this scholarship to pay for some of his classes. I was influenced to apply for this scholarship so I can have less debt after college.”

Riley Geyen-Helget is currently a senior in high school and is looking forward to pursing his dream of a career in biomedical engineering.

“I hope to graduate college in 2024 with a biomedical engineering degree. After college I plan on putting my degree to use and work for a company like 3M or Boston Scientific,” Geyen-Helget said.

Megan Duff

The 2020 scholarship award came to Megan Duff after recently receiving the award in 2019, which has contributed to her success so far.

“Bethel University is a small private college, meaning the tuition is not cheap. This scholarship is always added towards my semester bill and helps cover the cost of part of my tuition. Receiving the scholarship last year and this year gives me the opportunity to work a little less and focus more on my studies, which is the main reason I attend Bethel,” Duff said.

It was her continued success as well as her goals and unarguable work ethic that sent her to the top of the list for the committee.

“Megan Duff is special to me because I got to call and inform her of her success in achieving a scholarship. She is completing her sophomore year at Bethel and was in the process of attending school in Spain when COVID-19 struck,” Danielson said. “She’s a business major and received wonderful letters of recommendation and impressed us all with her goals and work ethic. Her father was in the Reserves for over 20 years, serving in Operation Dessert Storm and Bosnia. He is an author and speaks publicly of his love of America.”

“I qualify for this scholarship because of my dad’s service of 23 years in the Army Reserves and he currently resides in Isanti County,” Duff said.

Fall of 2018 was when Duff began her freshman year of college, and since then she’s continued to grow within her school, thanks to her scholarship awards.

“My college education this far has been fantastic. My love for Bethel has grown every semester by the impact of my professors, chapel sessions, growth on a sports team, and in the friendships I have made. All of my classes have less than 30 students in them, so I am able to build a relationship with each professor where we can discuss school, our faith, and our personal lives. I feel grateful to attend a university where the professors, faculty, and campus workers want to see you succeed and are alongside you throughout the process,” Duff said. “I am currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business finance, and that has not changed since I entered Bethel my freshman year. With changes to my major and general education requirements, I will graduate one semester early in December of 2021 with a business finance degree.”

Hearing she was the recipient of the scholarship for the second year in a row came as a surprise to Duff.

“I was surprised to hear that I had received this scholarship for the second year in a row. I know there are many applicants each year and only four of those can receive the scholarship per year. I am very grateful to be granted the scholarship again as I believe it shows the committee the progress I have made throughout my freshman and sophomore year. Receiving a personal phone call with the news has to be my favorite part of the process, because it’s personal and I know the committee spent a lot of time going through applications and choosing those they think best fit the criteria and financial need,” Duff said. “We are living through the craziest times of our lives right now. I am proud and thankful for the ICBYR scholarship committee for working through these times and how they were able to award myself and three others this scholarship that we all worked hard for. Like myself, I am sure the other recipients work very hard in school, extracurricular activities, sports, volunteer work, and around their community and are deserving of this scholarship. I want to say congratulations to the other recipients for receiving this scholarship.”

The scholarships awarded to this year’s applicants were the product of community generosity and hard work of dedicated individuals with a desire to help the youth of veterans and active military members, as well as their families.

“ICBYR is so proud to contribute to the future of our country by financially assisting children of our veterans. Those veterans gave so much; it’s only right that we give back to them,” Danielson said. “Credit should be given to Dan Meyer and Erin Yerigan for preparing the applications for scoring and compiling their materials. We also thank Carol Ann Smith for being secretary of the committee; her paperwork and attention to detail are critical to our process. Ultimately, we also thank Gail Genin, our fundraising head, for organizing the golf tournament that generates the funds for the four $2,500 scholarships and all of the participants and sponsors who make that September event so successful; thank you all.”

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